Yoga Mats & Infertility

Is it true that we need to avoid yoga mats when trying to conceive?  A group of scientists in the US found a staggering 80% of women undergoing fertility treatments at the Massachusetts General Hospital had traces of three flame-retardant chemicals known as PFRs in their system. And women with the highest levels of these chemicals have a 31 percent decreased rate of embryo implantation, a 41 percent decreased rate of a clinical pregnancy (when a heartbeat is detected via sonogram) and a 38 percent decreased rate of live birth compared with the women who had the lowest amounts of byproduct in their urine. Sobering statistics! 

Yoga mats are suspected of leaching chemicals into women's bodies who are receiving fertility treatments in San FranciscoThese chemical compounds are commonly found in many of our every day objects.  Recently there has been a lot of chatter on the internet about PFRs in yoga mats.  Fortunately, as someone who loves her yoga practice, the study in question didn’t actually mention yoga mats.  When Harvard sent out a press release about the study, it seems they misunderstood “gym mats” and illustrated the story with a photo of a yoga mat. (They have now changed the photo to one of a couch.) The chemicals in question are found in thick foam gym mats though, and the foam blocks that gymnasts use in landing pits as well upholstered furniture and even baby toys.

So good news for yogis but not so good for those looking to sit on their couch as well as  wanting to preserve or enhance their fertility.

Sadly, looking further reveals that there are effects not only on women and men’s fertility but also the children born out of PFR rich environment.  And none of these effects are good.   

In Manhattan, NY post a 11 September study, Herbstman et al. 2010, analyzed 210 cord blood specimens of selected flame retardants form 329 mothers who delivered in one of three hospitals in lower Manhattan.  They assessed the neuro-developmental effects in the children at 12, 48 and 72 months of age. Results showed that children who had higher cord blood concentrations of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) scored lower on tests of mental and motor development at 1, 4 and 6 years of age. This was the first study to report any such associations in humans.

Flame retardant chemicals are affecting fertility in women in the Bay Area

A similar study was conducted by Roze et al. 2009[35] in The Netherlands on 62 mothers and children.  This study looked at the associations between 12 Organohalogen compounds (OHCs) flame retardants and measured them from maternal serum during the 35th week of pregnancy and  analyzed motor performance, intelligence, visual perception, visuomotor integration, verbal memory attention and behavior scores at 5–6 years of age. Authors demonstrated for the first time that transplacental transfer of polybrominated flame retardants was associated with the decrease in development of children at school age with the highest levels of exposure in utero.

What is more disconcerting is the average US citizen has 4 fold increase in exposure than Europeans due to higher concentrations here.  

What’s a girl to do?

If you are in the market for new furniture consider purchasing something without flame retardants:

Here is a list from Duke University for 7 common flame retardants found in furniture

And for a more exhaustive list check here from the source of these disturbing compounds, the American Chemistry Council

Check your baby toys and products for organophosphorus compounds like PFRs, PCBs and OHCs.  If present take to the toxic waste dump.  Putting them in the trash ultimately leads to leaching these chemicals into our ground water. 

Just to be on the safe side- Here is a link for non toxic yoga mats too:

Call any manufactures that you are interested in but rule out because they use these noxious chemicals or have found in your home and discarded.  Let them know you will not be using or buying their product due to the presence of these deadly chemicals and nor with your friends. The best way to get change from industry is by following the dollar.  Companies will not change unless we, the people, the purchaser of their goods demand it.  This is our power.  We can make change and the less children and people that are exposed to these chemicals the better our futures will be.   

Sources: Environmental Health Perspectives, online August 25, 2017.

Magazines:  National Geographic July 2013

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